Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Funerals and Hurricanes

Hello again - much to share so let me get right at it.

Since my last post I have been awakened by early morning visitors at my door several times. The first was at 4AM when someone came to tell me that I was needed at the clinic because someone had died. I threw on some clothes, grabbed a prayer book for this type of situation and 15 minutes later I walked into the clinic, which was packed!

It seems that at 2AM this man, a known asthmatic, knocked on the door of the doctor's house, told him "I be dying" and collapsed. Once at the clinic they tried resusitating him, but to no avail, the asthma had been putting a strain on his heart for years and this attack would be his last.

When I arrived the crowd literally parted like the Red Sea and I walked straight into the examination room (there is only one) and, surrounding the gurney were his family and closest of friends. I began to pray spontaneously, then opened the book and read the Rite in praying over the deceased. After prayers they took him to the morgue amid much wailing and crying from the crowd.

I stayed for a little while, but this was a Saturday night (now Sun morning) and, having an 8AM liturgy, I left to try to get a bit more sleep (unsuccessfully).

Here in the Bahamas when someone dies on these remote islands they ship the body off to Nassau since we have no morticians. Usually the funeral is 2 weeks later, always a Saturday morning.

I helped the family plan the funeral and it was clear to me that since he was only in his 30s this would be a huge event - I was not wrong. Every seat in the church was full, I added 8 pews I had in storage to an open patio area we have outside the church and that filled up, then people stood outside peering in the windows. During the service, once again there was the Bahamian wailing and crying and falling down and fainting and screaming and it was clear that he was much loved by all. After the formal funeral service we walked (in 97 degree August heat) to the cemetery. The herse had gone to the cemetery to set up the awning over the gravesite and, with such a huge crowd, the herse could not get back to the church. The church parking lot was full, the driveway, both sides of the street leading to the church - absolute grid lock - so the pall bearers carried the casket out the church, down the driveway to the street, then placing it on the gurney we rolled the casket all the way through town to the cemetery with the entire church walking behind us singing away. Quite the send off - Bahamian style!

The second early morning visitor was knocking on my door a few days ago at 6AM. Their teenage daughter was sick and they needed a place to stay until the clinic opened at 8. She was running a temp and doubled over with cramps. Now, I should explain that Dengue Fever is rampant on Nassau and she had just visited there. This is a mosquito born virus that is quite nasty. Hundreds of cases have been confirmed, 3 have died, and the estimate is that the number of actual cases is in the thousands. We did our best to keep her comfortable, not an easy task, and eventually they left for the clinic. They returned a few hours later en route home to tell me the doc had given her a shot for pain, but all they could do was let it run its course. Island medicine can be a challenge.

As you know, this week hurricane Irene has decided to visit the Bahamas and I have been in prep mode all week. The US Navy has evacuated AUTEC and I put up over 50 hurricane shutters on our house and the church and just when I thought I was about done, with only 3 windows to go, discovered that the frame the shutters connect to was missing on one window. I found the frame in the garage and, although it was bent and rusty and stashed away because it was a wreck, I was going to have to use it.

What complicated this is that it was the top bracket of a window using 88" shutters where the window sill was about 6' off the ground. I have no extension ladder so I took my step ladder, leaned it against the side of the church, climbed to the very top step and, holding my drill over my head, drilled the pilot holes for the screws into the concrete wall - not an easy task. Then I repeated this on the other side of the window for the 2nd screw. Balancing on the balls of my feet I then had to screw in the screws (again over my head into concrete). Suffice it to say the screws did not cooperate and each took quite awhile to penetrate the cement. Once done I hoisted the hurricane shutter into place, to find I had hung the bracket 1" too low and the shutter wouldn't fit. So, up the ladder again, take out the screws, take down the bracket, drill new holes, screw new screws to get the bracket in place - all the while balancing on the topmost step of this ladder leaning precariously against the side of the church, while Irene is sending me the early waves of 30 MPH gust, lightning, and the occasional gale of rain which caused me climb down and wait for it to pass. Finally done, the shutters up, I called it a day after 12 hours of getting the shutters up on the church and the rectory. I was pooped!

Today the storm is nearer, it is a constant 40MPH wind with gusts to 60 but the storm itself has veered to the East. It will still do a number on the Bahamas but my island should be spared the most destructive force of the storm which will be here tonight, tomorrow and finally leave the next day.

Gotta run - till next time.

1 comment: